Rub Some Dirt On It: You may not go blind, but…

December 2, 2010

College kids tend to do a lot of dumb things—some of them pretty unsafe. But when we’re not partying hard or gorging ourselves on Leo’s food, most of us spend a good chunk of our time studying. Doesn’t that count for something? I mean, how are you going to hurt yourself by sitting at your desk or working on your computer?

As it turns out, that’s easy.

Repetitive Strain Injury is an injury caused by continuously making the same motion, like typing, clicking, or even texting, for long stretches of time. Those continuous motions can put stress on a person’s arms, shoulders, neck and, sometimes, back. Noticeable or persistent pain might take months or even years to show up, but every extra hour of performing that repetitive motion can lay the groundwork for eventual, chronic pain.

But the 20-page final paper isn’t really the guilty party. Yes, with lab reports and papers that need to be typed, journal databases that need to be searched, and Blackboard documents that need to be uploaded, most students spend much of their pre-finals study days interacting with their keyboards and touch pads. But the real culprit is bad posture. Unless all of your studying takes place at a perfectly positioned desk, the way you sit could be the biggest factor putting you at risk.

Many of us prefer to curl up in a lounge chair, recline in bed, or sit at a much too-low coffee table when getting work done. But study spots like those encourage a person to contort her body in ways that she might not realize are uncomfortable and painful until much later. Ultimately, investing in a lap desk is probably a good idea for those who want to take some pressure off of their muscles. Even a nifty new lap desk won’t solve all posture problems on its own, though. It is still important to sit up straight, keep your wrists level, and position your thighs and forearms parallel to the floor.

If you’ve got a lot of irregular verbs to conjugate, don’t take out your frustration out on your keyboard. Slamming down on it won’t make French grammar any more pleasant, but it will cause your hands to feel tight, sore, or tingly. Tapping lightly can make a major difference, especially in the long run.

Alternating between using a mouse and a touch-pad is also a nice way to avoid repetition of the same motion. Touch-pads can be particularly tiresome, especially when they aren’t as sensitive or responsive as one might like, and keeping a USB mouse on hand is well worth the trouble.

If your typing starts to get clumsy, and you begin to lose coordination in your hands, then you know that either your posture isn’t quite right, or that it’s simply been too long since your last break. That’s right—you now have another, great excuse to get away from your computer screen for a few minutes. Take a relaxing stroll down the hall to visit a floor-mate, or across campus to pick up some energizing snacks from Vital Vittles. Your muscles will thank you.

Spend countless hours with poor posture emailing Sadaf at squreshi@georgetownvoice.com

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